Andrew Balding admits it would be a “big deal” if Chaldean could follow in the hoof prints of his mighty sire Frankel to give legendary jockey Frankie Dettori “the send-off he deserves” on his last ever QIPCO 2000 Guineas ride at Newmarket on Saturday (6th May).
The Juddmonte-owned colt will bid to double his tally of Group One wins when contesting the opening Classic of the season and give Dettori a fourth 2000 Guineas success in his final year in the saddle.
Dettori, who announced in December that he would be retiring from riding in 2023, steered Chaldean to victory last year in both the Group Two Coral Champagne Stakes at Doncaster and the Group One Darley Dewhurst Stakes on the Rowley Mile.
However, the 52 year old saw their unbeaten partnership come to an end when he was unseated as they left the stalls during last month’s Group Three Watership Down Stud Too Darn Hot Greenham Stakes at Newbury.
Despite the minor on track setback Balding remains confident that Dettori, who has since partnered Chaldean in a piece of work back at the Classic-winning handler’s base in Kingsclere, can atone for that mishap in the prestigious mile prize.
Balding said of his star three-year-old, whose father Frankel demolished the field in this race 12 years ago: “We will only know on Saturday what we missed out on at Newbury and the benefits of having a run as obviously it would have been far more a benefit for him to have had a jockey on board and have a proper race.
“At the same time, it wasn’t totally lost as he had to go through the preliminary tests of saddling, walking around the paddock and cantering down to the start, which are the extras that go with a run and not just a gallop at home.
“Thankfully he didn’t go and do another circuit loose. He was fairly sensible.
“I couldn’t be happier with him at the moment and Frankie rode him on Saturday and he worked extremely well. It was a very solid piece and his fitness levels are as good as we could hope for in the circumstances.
“Frankie has been, throughout my career in racing, the standout jockey. It would be wonderful if we can contribute in giving him the send-off he deserves.
“I think if you were giving him a ride in the St Leger that would be a bit more pressure as it would be his last Classic ride. We just hope we have found him something worthy enough for this occasion.
“I’m just delighted we have got him and even at his age he is still an extraordinary jockey and I’m sure we won’t be lacking in assistance in the saddle.
“You don’t get many chances to win a Classic and it would be a big deal to win the race. He is a Dewhurst winner going into the 2000 Guineas that is fit and healthy and that might only happen twice in my training career so you want to take these opportunities if you can.”
Although initially disappointed to see Chaldean beaten on his debut at Newbury in June, Balding admits that the result might have turned out to be a blessing in disguise in many ways.
Balding said: “He was among the first crop of Juddmonte yearlings that we were allocated which was a big deal for the yard and being by Frankel he was an obvious highlight from the minute he came in from that point of view.
“It didn’t work first time out but it was a sharp learning process for him. He got in a pocket then lost ground at a vital stage, but he hit the line very well.
“We were expecting him to win, I wouldn’t lie, but at the same time he learned plenty from the experience and showed plenty of promise.
“As it turned out it probably helped his season as it meant he went and won his maiden slightly later in the summer which meant he was eligible for the Acomb which was the perfect next step to give him a springboard into those better races and the rest worked out perfectly.
“From day one he has been a total professional and a real pleasure to train. He showed plenty of ability early in his work but as we got racing funnily enough his work has become a bit more workmanlike.
“I remember talking to Barry Mahon, who is the racing manager for Juddmonte, around the time of the Acomb saying that his work is not as spectacular as it was earlier on in the year and we were slightly concerned.
“But then his racecourse performances improved to win an Acomb, a Champagne Stakes and a Dewhurst.”
While both the ground and the track raise no question marks, one box Chaldean still has to tick is his ability to be able to stay a mile.
However, from what he has seen so far Balding is confident that he will have no problem getting the additional furlong in his bid to give Frankel his first domestic 2000 Guineas winner as a sire.
He added: “He always felt like seven was never going to be a problem and I would be very surprised if the mile was an issue.
“Frankel stayed a mile and a quarter himself and he has been an influence, weirdly, for horses to stay further than you think they are going to stay.
“There is a lot of speed on the dam’s side at the same time so it is not a given but he relaxes well and I would very much hope the mile wouldn’t be a problem.
“We do put a red hood on him in the paddock as Ryan (Moore) felt after York (Acomb) that he just got a little bit keen going to the start and I’d rather not take any chances so that is why we have it, but as you see out in exercise he is the most laid back creature.
“He is a horse that can be ridden one of three ways and he is a horse that goes on any ground so that takes two of the concerns out of the equation, it is just a case of him running faster than the others on the day and staying the trip.”
Balding already has one QIPCO 2000 Guineas success to his name, having saddled the now-retired Kameko to glory in the 2020 renewal, which was run behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 restrictions put in place.
And although Kameko and Chaldean have distinct similarities going into the race, Balding admits the experience would be a complete contrast to the one he witnessed three years ago.
He added: “Kameko and Chaldean are very similar in that they are both Group One winners at two and they both have great attitudes with tonnes of ability.
“We have run horses in Classic races before and you don’t know if they are quite up to it, whereas both Kameko and Chaldean have deserved to be there.
“When we won it with Kameko it was a month later and virtually every horse in the race was having its first run of the year so no one really knew where we were at as we hadn’t been back racing long.
“It was all a bit of a guessing game but I think it was a very good Guineas and they run it at a strong pace. It was a proper test and Kameko came through with flying colours.
“Covid was difficult for a lot of people and it was a weird experience on a racecourse during that time, but whoever wins it on Saturday will have a different experience.”
While excited about the chances of Chaldean, Balding believes that the Aidan O’Brien-trained pair of ante-post favourite Auguste Rodin and stablemate Little Big Bear will be the two horses to beat in what he believes is an “above average” 2000 Guineas.
He added: “I think the two of Aidan’s at the top of the market looked exceptional last year. We’ve not really got any form with them as we never raced Chaldean against either of them.
“I think there are some strong English entries, like Royal Scotsman who ran us close in the Dewhurst so he has to be respected. It looks an above average Guineas to me.
“We have done everything we can and on the day it will be over the horse and Frankie and receiving a bit of luck.”
The QIPCO 2000 Guineas is the first race in the 2023 QIPCO British Champions Series.